HDD to SSD upgrade

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We recently upgraded the hard drive on a 2009 iMac to a solid state drive. We cloned the old drive to the new so all data was preserved.

The results speak for themselves!

DNS layer security

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DNS layer security

Your first line of defence against malware.

For just £3 per device per month you can protect your business from malware and cryptlockers.


What is DNS?

DNS (domain name system) is a protocol that performs address translation.

Every website has a unique address called an IP address and it is the job of a domain name server to translate the website address you type into your website browser e.g. www.bbc.co.uk into an IP address.

When you type a web address (FQDN (fully qualified domain name)) into your browser a request goes off to a DNS server which translates the FQDN into the required IP address and directs your browser to the correct site.

The DNS you use will most of the time be determined by your internet service provider.

How can DNS layer security help?

OpenDNS by Cisco is a service that combines standard DNS with intelligent security. Their network actively monitors and learns from internet activity patterns to identify and block malicious infrastructure used to launch attacks.

What this means is that if you inadvertently try to visit a website with malicious content, or a piece of malware already on your computer tries to make contact with its command and control server the request will be blocked and the malicious code will be unable to communicate with your computer.

What’s wrong with just using an anti-virus?

Anti-viruses are usually signature based which means they are only as good as the threat database they are referencing. It is also very easy to disguise viruses so that they escape the attentions of a virus scanner.

Unlike antivirus’s which only deals with threats once they arrive on your computer, DNS security aims to block the threats before they reach your network.

How do I get DNS layer security?

If you are a home user, you are eligible for the OpenDNS free service. https://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/

If you are business, please get in touch with Convergence. We are Cisco partners and are able to provide business DNS security for £3 per device per month. Setup is straight forward and usually requires no additional equipment. We are also able to provide protection for mobile devices when they leave your office network.

Protecting your children when they use the Internet

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The Internet is a wonderful resource, a source of education and entertainment for everyone.
However, there is also a lot of content which may not be suitable for a young mind and as a parent it is you responsibility to minimise your children’s exposure to this material.

Up until recently there has been very little guidance for parents when it comes to monitoring a child’s activity on the web.

However, with government intervention and internet service providers taking a more proactive role in not only educating parents but also in providing them the tools to secure home connections there is really no excuse now.

The simplest precaution is to keep internet accessible devices out in the open, in rooms where you can monitor what is being viewed. For particularly young children it may be beneficial to make surfing the web a shared activity between parent and child. This way you can monitor their usage and turn what is usually an isolated activity into a more sociable one.

As children get older it is increasingly difficult to control their web access habits, and this is when parental controls setup on the router can go some way to limiting the material that is viewable. Both BT and Virgin provide parental controls and you can find an explanation of how these function by following the links below:

http://bt.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/46768#settingup
http://parentalcontrols-on.org/Virgin-Media

If your child has a mobile device that uses 3G/4G then you will need to contact your provider to ensure parental control are enabled on the account.

If your Internet Service Provider does not provide filtering you can use a free service by OpenDNS. This service facility will protect every device in your home, instantly. OpenDNS settings apply to every device — laptops, smartphones, tablets, DVRs, game consoles, TVs, literally anything that connects to the internet.

OpenDNS: https://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/

While these services protect against inappropriate content, the other aspect to staying safe online is education on how to behave. This includes the basics such as:

• Not letting anyone know your password.
• Not giving out personal information online such as phone numbers, email addresses, home address or name of your school.
• Taking care when opening files, pictures of texts from someone you don’t know or trust.

Interacting with people on the internet, whether it be by email, chat room, social media, or even using in-game communication can also present risk. Make sure your children understand that:

• Unless you have permission from a parent, don’t arrange to meet up with someone you have been talking to online.
• You can never be 100% sure that people are being truthful on the internet.
• You must treat people on the internet as you would do in person. Being hurtful or rude is not OK.
• If you are in any doubt or something is making you uncomfortable, that you should tell a parent, carer or teacher.

In the past, keeping your child from viewing inappropriate material was simply ensuring they did not watch the TV after 9pm… now things are more complicated. Fortunately, while the internet creates some problems it also provides you with the tools and knowledge to overcome them!

Security concerns of BYOD

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BYOD (Bring your own device) is an increasingly popular trend within businesses.

Mobile devices come in all shapes and sizes, from smartphones and tablets to laptops and even smart watches.

But while BYOD is can be advantageous in many scenarios, it can also open your organisation up to serious security concerns.

Security concerns of BYOD

Software updates

Are your employees keeping their devices up to date with the latest operating system and third party program security updates? While it’s true that devices are getting very good and keeping themselves up to date, it is still important to have a policy in place to monitor updates and ensure there have been no errors that may have prevented updates from being applied.

Business vs Personal

Employees using their device for personal use may encounter websites or files that could cause damage and data loss. They may also allow family members or friends to use the device without their supervision.

When the device is brought back into the office environment and connected to the business network, malicious programs have the opportunity to spread to other computers on the network.

Data backup Policy

When using personal devices an employee may become complacent in where they store their work files. Instead of putting documents on a network share or a cloud storage solution they may opt to place files directly on their computers hard drive. Not only does this mean files may not be backed up, it also presents possible data security issues.

Physical Security

Devices taken outside of the work place are more susceptible to theft. The result of this could be lost working hours while a replacement device is purchased or more seriously the loss of company data which has the potential to incur legal or financial penalties.

End of life

Once a device has reach the end of its life, are you ensuring that any data has been securely removed from the device before it is disposed of? It is not enough to simply format the machine. The only sure way of disposing of data is to physically damage the disk.

 

While it is possible to mitigate the risks that BYOD brings through the use of hardware solutions, the most cost effect option is to educate your staff members. Providing your employees with the skills and knowledge to operate their devices safely can save you time, money and potentially your businesses reputation.

Get your IT off to a flying start this year!

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happy-new-year-header

A New Year, A New Beginning

As we start the New Year, many of us will have made resolutions in our personal lives. The goal, whether it to be get fit, eat healthy, stop procrastinating or perhaps learn a new language is focused on self-improvement. These changes will undoubtedly have a positive effect on our business in some way, but what about creating a New Year’s resolution just for our business?

As a business owner, the New Year is an opportunity to reflect on your business goals and consider what changes you can make within your business to help 2017 become one of the most successful and prosperous years so far.

For Convergence, we have chosen to make 2017 the year of ‘Optimisation’. This broad resolution will touch on many aspects of our, business but the three key changes on our hit list are:

Improved ticketing system to make our daily workflow more streamlined.
The addition of an IVR menu (Press 1 for… Press 2 for..) to our phone system so calls are accurately routed to the most appropriate person.
Implement a Direct Debit option for some of our recurring services to help improve cash flow.

Your Business

So the question remains, what resolution will you make for your business?

Here are a few questions to consider when thinking about possible changes to your IT.

  • Am I paying too much for my telephone system and calls?
  • Can I save money on my office printing?
  • Are my files and folders safe and backed up?
  • Who can I call to help if my computer or server stops working?
  • Can IT help me or my employees save time within my business?

If you require any help in answering the above or have any other IT related queries please do not hesitate to contact Convergence.

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

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Why is my <insert device name here> slow? And why does turning it off and on help?

If you have experienced a problem with any sort of technology you might be asked:

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Joking aside…while this may seem like a low tech solution there are good reasons why this works.

The real answer will be specific to the type of device. For an example, let us take a modem (the thing you use to connect to the internet) with the symptom of slow internet access.

Reason 1: Poor Cooling

When a device is being made to work constantly at a high level (streaming a movie, playing a game, etc) the processor will produce more heat. If there is insufficient cooling the device will begin to throttle processing power to prevent damage occurring. As the processor slows, so does your internet connection.

When you turn the device off and leave and leave it for a few minutes before turning it back on the heat will have dissipated enough to allow the CPU to run at full speed again… at least until it heats up again.

Reason 2: Poorly Written Firmware

Firmware is code that is used to manage the operation of a device. If the firmware is poorly written, problems including memory leaks and improper session handling can occur. The result of this is that too much old information is stored causing the firmware to run outside of its limits.

When you reboot a device its memory is cleared and any required information (that may have been accidentally overwritten) is loaded afresh.

in-a-nutshell

Creating a secure password, and one that you will remember!

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Creating a secure password, and one that you will remember!

We all know how annoying it is to try and come up with a password that is not only secure but that is memorable. It also seems like almost every week another company has been hacked and passwords stolen.

In the continuing battle to create unique passwords, I’m sure many of us end up with variations on a theme. If the ones below look familiar… read on!

  • Football clubs
  • Family names
  • Pet names
  • Date of Birth

A recent attack on Adobe has revealed how insecure many people’s passwords are. The list below highlights the most common passwords found in the Adobe breach.

  • 123456
  • 123456789
  • password
  • admin
  • 12345678
  • qwerty
  • 1234567
  • 111111
  • photoshop
  • 123123
  • 1234567890
  • 000000
  • abc123
  • 1234
  • adobe1
  • macromedia
  • azerty
  • iloveyou
  • aaaaaa
  • 654321

Perhaps even some of those look familiar!

So what goes into creating a strong password?

  1. Ideally you should look to have a minimum of 8 characters. The reason for this is that length is the only factor that will exponentially increase the time it takes for a password to be cracked.For example, the password “!24Thp*” may look secure but in fact “applerunningseatablebasket” is a more secure choice.
  2. Include uppercase letters, numbers and symbols.
  3. Exclude any personal information, for example dates of birth, favourite football teams, and spouse’s names.
  4. Don’t write your passwords down! Instead, make an abstract note that will jog your memory but give nothing else away.
  5. Create a new password for every account you own.
  6. Don’t reuse passwords. Once you know a password has been broken, or you have been notified by a company that there is the possibility of your password having been compromised, abandon it. It’s highly likely that broken passwords end up being added to a list for future dictionary attacks.

So, with all that in mind, how can I come up with a safe password?

A security expert named Bruce Schneier created a method in 2008 that he still recommends today.

‘Combine a personally memorable sentence with some personally memorable tricks to modify that sentence into a password to create a lengthy password.’

For example:

Wtdo3sacamerat@ke?Ptrs! – What does a camera take? Pictures!

Grt!Iluvthew33kEND –  Great! I love the weekend!

What is virtualisation and how can it help your business

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What is virtualisation?

Virtualisation is the process of creating virtual instances of a device or resource. Multiplying an asset, whether it be a server, storage device or operating system without the requirement of additional hardware.

The simplest example of this would be partitioning a hard drive.

Although you are using one hard drive, the act of partitioning creates multiple virtual hard drives, identifiable with their own drive letter.

At the other end of the spectrum the same scenario can be used with complete operating systems.
With one high powered machine managing multiple independent operating systems.

Why is virtualisation useful

Virtualisation can provide savings on the cost of hardware, and sometimes software e.g. Windows Server 2012R2 Data Centre Licenses. Virtualisation is also flexible, easier to manage, more robust, allows quicker provisioning of workstations for new staff members, improves disaster recovery and a whole host of other benefits.

What type of business is virtualisation suited to?

Virtualisation is best leveraged in large organisations with the requirement of high availability. The tasks that are best suited for a virtualised environment would be word processing, web browsing, accounting etc.

In organisations where an individual requires a high level of computing power e.g. Graphic Designer, Photographer, CAD Operator etc. then individual workstations still reign supreme.

Sounds great! What’s the catch?

Because you are putting all your eggs in one basket as it were, it is essential that the servers and storage that are powering your business have robust backup and failover in place. For this reason, there is often a very high financial outlay for creating such a system. However, when compared to the benefits it is still an attractive proposition.

Top Tech Tip – Monitor your hard drive health

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Monitor your hard drive health

Knowing the health of your computer’s hard drive can help you avoid downtime and data loss by taking pre-emptive action before it fails.

Acronis Drive Monitor is a free program that monitors your hard drive health while it is in use.

You download the program here: http://www.acronis.com/en-gb/personal/hard-drive-health/

If you need assistance installing the program or analysing its results contact us today.


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